Courtesy Of: Tailor4Less Made-to-Measure Shirt
"Courtesy Of" is a series on This Fits in which I write about products that have been gifted to me for review. While I strive to be objective, I think it’s fairer to you, the readers, if I disclose when I’ve received merchandise for free.
Confession time: I recently donated two of my three online made-to-measure shirts to Goodwill—and I don’t really wear the third. While the donated shirts were still in great condition, the truth is they didn’t fit me very well. The sleeves were too short, causing the cuffs to ride up when I bent my arm. They were also far too short in the body, frequently coming untucked.
That’s the ironic gotcha about online MTM: something that should theoretically offer a better fit than off-the-rack clothing often doesn’t. It’s not a quality issue inherent with online MTM companies, but rather a customer issue—it’s really, really easy to get the measuring process wrong, especially when you try to measure yourself. And even if you’re spot-on in taking measurements, the retailer can only do so much to prevent you from making really dumb decisions, like asking for a shirt a good five or six inches shorter than it should be (yeah, I don’t know what I was thinking, either).
So when Tailor4Less asked me to review a complimentary made-to-measure shirt, I was appreciative but apprehensive. Sure, the “free” part means I lose nothing if the shirt ends up being a disaster—but a terrible review shirt does nothing to tell you, the readers, if it’s worth parting with your hard-earned cash for a Tailor4Less shirt. You’d have no idea if Tailor4Less has a bad service (spoiler: they don’t), or if I screwed up, doing a disservice to both Tailor4Less and you.
Anyways, enough with the hand-wringing. This is the fairly boring shirt design I went with. It’s tempting when you first start trying online MTM to load up on flashy features because, well, you can. I know I did at first. Heaven forbid someone mistaken my shirt for something bought off-the-rack. In the case of my first three MTM shirts, going full sprezzy resulted in the annoying (French cuffs, which I find too fussy), silly (purple-on-pink cuff monogram), or downright garish (purple buttons on a pink shirt).
So for your first online MTM shirt, I strongly suggest keeping it understated and simple, like I did. Spread or buttondown collar, one collar button, single-button barrel cuffs (like cufflinks, I find two-button cuffs fussy). I went with no chest pocket, since I wanted a dressier shirt. But not too dressy, so a standard placket (as opposed to a French front).
I did allow for a few rather tame indulgences. I went for “cut” (mitered) cuffs, a dressier feature. I also opted for no pleats in the back for a trimmer fit in the shoulders.
I have two critiques of the design features available. First, there’s no detailed explanation of the difference between the three different fits (“Waisted”,”Normal”, and “Loose”). I’ve got about 10 extra pounds of weight on me, and it would’ve been nice to know if the “Waisted” option would be too restrictive, or the “loose” option too billowy (I chose “Waisted,” for what it’s worth). Second, one can’t add darts to the back of the shirt. I’m personally on the fence about whether or not darts belong on men’s shirts, but it would be nice to have the option.
The fabric selection is pretty good: over 120 options as of this writing. I appreciate that fabrics can be filtered by “color tone”, texture, and season, but the filters for “fabric type” could use some clarification. Specifically, I had to email to ask what “easy care” fabric is. Apparently it’s material “you don’t need to iron” — which makes me wonder how it’s different from the “Wrinkle free” fabric. In any case, I finally settled on “New River,” a checked fabric that appears icy blue, my favorite shirt color.
Under customization, I stayed away from overly showy features like contrast fabric for sleeves and cuffs, or colored threads for buttons and buttonholes. I did go for a monogram. While some people find them universally in poor taste, I think they’re alright if steps are taken to keep them understated. In this case, I appreciated that Tailor4Less allows for putting the monogram a few inches above the belt line, a placement I haven’t seen at other online MTM shops (in case you’re wondering, it’s the “Medium” Embroider position). To further de-emphasize it, I picked white thread for the monogram, which I expected to blend in with the white ground of the shirt’s checked fabric. It’s a decision I regret … more on that later.
I was a bit surprised to find that that’s the extent of customization available. Tailor4Less’s competitors let you pick the color, thickness, and material of the shirt buttons, as well as the option to have removable collar stays. But maybe that’s okay, because it keeps schmucks like me from making dumb choices like purple buttons.
Where Tailor4Less really shines is the measurement process. As I noted in the introduction to this post, that’s the Achilles’ heel for most online MTM. As long as it’s in the customer’s hands, I doubt measuring will ever be as accurate as an in-person visit with a tailor or measurement specialist. That said, the Tailor4Less measurement system is both thoughtful and thorough, clearly erring on the side of hand-holding to ensure customer-entered measurements are as precise as possible.
It starts by asking for the customer’s height, weight, age, and build. The latter is handled cleverly, using body type illustrations and a slider—a smart decision since leaving it as a discrete choice would probably have most people making their best guess between two options. From there, you’re given a list of suggested measurements, presumably based on their database of customer profiles.
One can opt to just go with the suggested measurements (which I found to be pretty close), but more-exacting customers can measure themselves. Again, clever interface design helps ensure that the measuring process is done as accurately as possible. Where I’ve seen other sites simply say something like “measure to preferred sleeve length,” Tailor4Less asks you to “measure along the arm to the start of the thumb.” And since there’s probably some confusion as to where exactly the “start of the thumb” is, Tailor4Less offers helpful pictures and even a video for each measurement. Again pulling on their database of customer profiles, they offer a precise “suggested” number for each measurement that sits on a draggable slider. You can actually manually enter a value that sits outside the slider (which I had to do for one measurement), but the range is a good check for whether you’ve really mis-measured something. Smart design, Tailor4Less.
Sidenote: even with all these fool-proofing features in place, I strongly suggest having someone else take your measurements (shout-out to my ever-patient and accommodating wife).
That’s it as far as the measuring and ordering process goes. Tailor4Less ships free worldwide, and promises delivery two weeks from the day you submit your order. My shirt arrived faster, in just 10 days. I’m not sure that I received special treatment since the shirt was gratis in exchange for a review, but from reading around the web, it seems others have experienced similar turnaround times.
So how did the shirt turn out? After a wash, pretty good—here’s me wearing it in my tailor’s dressing room:
The sleeve length is pefect—at my wrist when buttoned and down to the crook of my thumb and index finger when unbuttoned. The cuffs feature two horizontal buttons, which I thought was a bit odd—you figure a MTM shirt would have the precise wrist measurement, to say nothing of expecting just one button when you specify “single-button cuffs”. I appreciate it, though, since it allows my left cuff to accomodate my watch. I would have appreciated a bit more room in the bicep, a bit more taper in the waist, and a cleaner front in general, but that’s getting nit-picky—this is now the best-fitting shirt I own.
I’m hardly the most qualified person to talk about construction, but it seems fair, with even stitching throughout. The collar is fused and a bit stiff for my taste, and I wasn’t too thrilled that it included non-removable stays. I did like that the front has eight buttons, where most of my shirts only have seven. It’s a nice feature that helps ensure the shirt stays tucked in.
The monogram is expertly done and appears to be hand-stitched, but I wish I’d picked a different thread color. Instead of appearing subtle, the white thread on icy blue fabric actually looks like an obtuse sewing job from a distance; as if I’d torn the shirt and clumsily tried to repair the hole myself. Despite protestations to the contrary, I think monograms are meant to be seen (even if not right away), and they’re certainly not meant to look like a rip. I should have picked a navy thread instead. I can live with that, but it just goes to show that even a good online MTM service like Tailor4Less can’t completely protect customers from making their own dumb decisions.
So caveat emptor here applies more to the customer than the seller. In fact, I’d say Tailor4Less offers a good value for their made-to-measure shirts, especially given the low starting price of 38 euros (around $50).